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Colors of season are in full bloom

November 29, 2002|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

Plant nurseries throughout the Tri-State area now brim with the brilliant colors of the holiday season's best-selling bloom.

The thousands of poinsettias that fill greenhouses and plant shops from late November through December account for the majority of plant sales during the holidays, said plant growers and sellers in Washington County, Jefferson County, W.Va., and Franklin County, Pa.

"That's what we make our money on," said Jason Hockensmith, greenhouse manager at Potomac Farms Nursery in Shepherdstown, W.Va.

Sales of poinsettias, which represent more than 85 percent of the holiday season's potted plant sales, are expected to total about $220 million nationwide, according to the University of Illinois Extension's Poinsettia Pages Web site.

The estimated 5,000 poinsettias grown this year at Potomac Farms will be sold on-site and shipped to the company's Frederick, Md., store and other retailers in the region, Hockensmith said.

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Chris Doyle, owner of Mountainside Gardens in Boonsboro, divided the estimated 2,000 plants he grew this year into six-, eight- and 10-inch pots that he is selling at his retail store and wholesaling to the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and other retailers, he said.

Cindy Chirdon, co-owner of T&C Greenhouses in Hagerstown, has stocked about 3,000 poinsettias to sell to her retail customers, churches and area florists, she said.

Trina Lovell of Lovell's Nursery in Hagerstown expects to sell about 400 poinsettias this season, she said. And about 1,500 poinsettias will be foil-wrapped for the holidays at Green Arbor Flower & Shrubbery Center in Waynesboro, Pa., owner Joe Rock said.

There are about 100 varieties of poinsettia, but nearly 75 percent of Americans prefer traditional red blooms, according to the Poinsettia Pages Web site.

Local growers and sellers agreed. Potomac Farms boasts eight different plant colors but Freedom Red, which comprises 60 percent of the greenhouses' poinsettia stock, is by far the top seller, Hockensmith said.

Though red shades make up the majority of the poinsettias at Mountainside Gardens, many customers this year are interested in white poinsettias, Doyle said. He expects to sell out of white blooms about two weeks before Christmas, he said.

For consumers with less traditional tastes, plant sellers offer such poinsettia shades as speckled red and white, pastel pink and a curlier variety of poinsettia known as Winter Rose.

Chirdon expects the deep red Burgandy Cortez poinsettias she is selling for the first time this year to be big sellers. And she hopes pastel poinsettia lovers will take home Pink Ribbon plants because a portion of the proceeds from those sales will benefit the American Cancer Society, Chirdon said.

Pink Ribbon poinsettias will be available at T&C Greenhouses after Dec. 9, she said.

Hockensmith, Doyle and Elsie Rodriguez, greenhouse manager at Lovell's Nursery, began growing poinsettias from rooted cuttings this summer in preparation for the busy holiday season, they said.

The local growers agreed that poinsettias are tough to grow because the young plants die quickly if over-watered and are highly susceptible to diseases. Doyle lost much of his crop when he began growing poinsettias four years ago, he said, but now relies upon such preventative maintenance practices as drenching the growing plants with fungicides to stem root rot and other diseases.

But poinsettias are hardy plants once established, Rodriguez said.

"You eventually end up throwing leftover poinsettias away because you just can't kill them," she said.

Poinsettias that live inside throughout the winter months can also be replanted outside in late spring, Doyle said.

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